Beginning Ash Wednesday, lent continues roughly 40 days up until Easter. Marked by giving up life snares, it can be a great time of self-evaluation. Here’s how you can totally miss the purpose of lent:
1- You could give up wrong things. It’s popular to quit social media for a season, and that’s no different during lent. To quit social media is to misunderstand what it is. A layer of communication, similar to the phone so many years ago. Stopping connecting with people may be counter intuitive to what lent is trying to produce in us. Further puzzling is the comment I’ve seen continually from those who’ve given up social media for a season, “Well, I’m back. It’s time for me to get caught up on what I missed”. I shouldn’t have to say much more on how absurd that is. You could certainly give up being a social media train wreck for lent.
2- You could resume what you gave up. At least in a “Business as usual” way. If it’s worth giving up for 40 days, my guess is it may be best to give up for a lifetime. I’m not certain I’ve completely understood giving up self-proclaimed snares with the expressed intent on picking them up again. If it’s an idol for you, give it up for good.
3- You could think lent is about chocolate. The 40 days of lent sort of represents Jesus’ obedient triumph over the 40 days of wilderness temptations, which eventually enables you and I to be more like Jesus. You could give up things without giving in to remembering Jesus. N. T. Wright has a wonderful devotion to carry you through lent entitle, “Lent for Everyone”. Don’t give up anything before you give in to knowing Jesus more deeply.
4- You could give up things totally. We think the cure for giving into things is to give up on things. You’re not Holy if you can quit eating cake. You’re Holy if you can eat it moderately. You typically see this behavior with alcohol. Those who’ve abused alcohol, find the answer to their abuse is abstinence. Ancient cultures like Greco-Roman’s looked at total abstinence on the same level as total drunkenness. Both were seemed immature and highlighted an immature lack of self-control.
I love lent as a time to reflect on being more like Jesus, but I’m just not comfortable with temporary sanctification. Make this lent season mean more than ever before by giving up some of your misconceptions of it.